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Installing pavers to abutt new retaining wall

November 11, 2018

I want to make sure I am not making my job more difficult than it needs to be...

I am cutting into a slope, installing a curved retaining wall (dry-stack retaining wall block) to hold back the slope, and installing pavers to make a patio which butts up against the retaining wall. (So, the retaining wall rises above the pavers - the pavers are *not* sitting on top of the wall.)

The question I have regards whether to install the wall first and cut the pavers to fit the curve of the wall, or to install the pavers first and install the wall to butt up against the pavers.

I assume that best would be install the wall first (compact and level the retaining wall base, and install and backfill at least the first couple of rows) and then install the pavers (grade and compact the paver base, then install the pavers, cutting them to fit the wall). However, cutting the pavers to fit the existing wall will be a pain.

Installing the pavers first would make cutting the pavers a lot easier, but since best practice is to bury the first row of dry-stack wall blocks, that means when I install the wall I'll have to excavate down next to the installed pavers, and I worry that would compromise the paver base, and create problems in the long run.

Easiest would be to have both the pavers and the retaining wall block sitting on the same level base. This would have just the lower 2" or so of the retaining buried. This would probably be "good enough" and would be tempting, except that the retaining wall base should be level for a stable wall, while the pavers' base needs to be sloped (1% to 2%) to accommodate drainage and some other things going on at the site - So the two cannot share the same level base.

Am I making things more difficult for myself? Would I create problems if I installed the pavers first, and then dug down 1" or 2" into that compacted base to create a level base for the retaining wall block?

Or is the a better way entirely?

Sorry for the long question - hopefully it makes sense.

Comments (6)

  • PRO
    Revolutionary Gardens

    It sounds like you know that the right way to do it is wall first, then pavers. I wouldn't do it any other way based on the circumstances you describe.

    If you want to avoid a full day of hold the paver, scribe the paver, cut the paver, re-scribe the paver, re-cut the paver, over and over, and it works with the function and layout of the wall, you can cheat. Offset the end of your pavers a foot from the wall, lay your pavers past that line so you have full pavers to cut, then cut in place with a gas powered saw. Fill it the rest of the space with a "rubble" paver like Techo-Bloc Antika, or pop in your edge restraint against the pavers and fill the gap w/ river rock or mexican beach pebbles. All your friends will go "OMG leeschipper you even did a border you are so cool!" and no one needs to know it made your life easier.

    leeschipper thanked Revolutionary Gardens
  • PRO
    Arbordale Landscaping

    I would recommend putting your pavers and walling on the same sub-base. The sub-base for both pavers and retaining wall have the same requirements. I would first lay the pavers to finishing on a full brick which will mitigate the amount of cutting you need to do and make sure you have nice full pieces of stone. You would then lay the walling stone behind the pavers. This way, a minimum of 2-1/2" (or the profile of your pavers) of walling will be buried behind your pavers for added strength to the wall and the clean paver line will give you a straight edge to work off.

  • PRO
    K&D Landscape Management

    Sage advice from @Revolutionary, which is also consistent with our routine protocols. We are doing the exact application you describe on site today as a matter of fact. The walls will be first, followed by the pavers and then some infill for the space between the brick and the wall. Good luck with your project.

    leeschipper thanked K&D Landscape Management
  • leeschipper

    Thanks for the responses!

    I like the simplification of adding a rubble border - I'm going to think of what I might do in that regard that will fit with existing materials and overall look.

    As for using the same base for both - I would love to do that and think that 2 1/2" of compacted pavers would provide good enough opposition to support the base course of the wall. The constraint there is that part of the new patio butts up against an existing pool deck, and the pool deck is sloped for drainage around the pool. Matching that pool deck will leave new pavers 2" higher in the middle than on the ends. Using the same base for the (30' long, 30" high) wall means the wall base would also be 2" higher in the middle. Maybe having a wall base 2" higher in the middle than on the ends is no big deal, but since I am not expert enough to know when it is OK to break/bend the rules, I tend to follow them when I can.

  • sofaspud
    If the pavers go first, woild that mean the retaining wall would rest on the first row of pavers? If so, wouldn't the weight of the wall tend to push the first row down over time, so you'd end up with lippage?
  • PRO
    Revolutionary Gardens

    a big part of why you bury a course or two is to keep the bottom of the wall from kicking out. If you set the wall on the pavers, it's going to move. Plus aesthetically, it would look odd to have the patio disappearing under the wall.

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